Friday, October 5, 2012

Classic Children of the 90s Repost: Popular Young Children's Books of the 80s and 90s

Children's authors set the groundwork for a new generation to develop a deep love of reading, so it's critical that their output is engaging and amusing enough to hold our limited attention. Plus, our parents often bore the burden of reading these books to us again and again until they could have recited them from memory, so it helped if authors could throw in some humor that satiated the appetites of both adults and children.

These books satisfied both criteria in balance and firmly established a place in our collective nostalgic heart for their silliness, fun, and wit. Let's take a stroll through the magical world of 80s and 90s young children's books. You'll laugh, you'll cry, you'll develop a catchy rhyming scheme. Don't blame me if you start talking Seusically, though. It should wear off in 10-12 hours.

If You Give A Mouse a Cookie



We all know what happens when you start giving mice cookies. They're insatiable little rodents, really. At least that's the central message of Laura Numeroff's If You Give a Mouse a Cookie. He'll just keep bleeding you dry with favors until he finally just wants a cookie again. There's just no winning. Maybe if you try giving a Moose a Muffin or a Pig a Pancake things might turn out differently. Maybe.


Love You Forever


If you're a leaky-faucet type crier easily set off by emotional material, be warned that you'll release the floodgates by the last cycle of "I love you forever, I love you for always, as long as you're living, my baby you'll be." The book details the relationship of a mother and her young son as she recites the same refrain to him at various stages of his life. Near the end of the story, the adult child recites it back to his dying elderly mother and finally to his own infant daughter. The book resonates well with adults and children alike; it seems the older you get, the more likely you'll want to keep a full box of tissues nearby when you pick this one up.


The Eleventh Hour and Animalia




I spent somewhere in the neighborhood of three years trying to trace these gorgeous illustrations in hopes of miraculously transferring Graeme Base's incredible art talent onto my own hopelessly skill-free hands. Base's books may be visually enchanting, but in the case of The Eleventh Hour they're also incredibly tricky. I still haven't managed to solve all of the many riddles embedded in the story. I almost caved and broke into the solution in the back, but I'm still holding out hope that the answer will just come to me.


The True Story of the Three Little Pigs and The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Fairy Tales




Revisionist fairy tales can be a lot of fun, and this Wolf-narrated version of the classic Three Little Pigs story is no exception. Our allegedly mistakenly accused suspect, Alexander T. Wolf, describes his troubles in borrowing sugar to bake a cake for his Granny's birthday. Is it his fault he has a terrible cold and that pigs build inferior non-sneeze-resistant houses? How could you let a delicious ham dinner like that go to waste, after all?

Along the same lines and written by the same witty author (Jon Scieszka), The Stinky Cheese Man gives us an irreverent look at some of our favorite classic fairy tales. The Gingerbread Man is the Stinky Cheese Man, The Really Ugly Duckling just grows into a Really Ugly Duck, and Little Red Riding Shorts manages to outrun the wolf on the way to Grandma's. The book is a bit chaotic, but it's legitimately clever and witty, too.


Arthur Books


Marc Brown was clearly onto something when he created this lovable anthropomorphic eight-year old aardvark named Arthur. Populating Arthur's hometown of Elwood City are a host of other cuddly animal characters with varying socioeconomic backgrounds, leading me to find that yes, you can indeed be jealous of a fictional monkey. Darn you, Muffy, and your enviable rich-monkey lifestyle.


The Jolly Postman


Kids have pretty short attention spans, so an interactive book is always a major draw: it's like a combination book/game rolled into a neat little package. To be delivered by a postman. A jolly postman.

In The Jolly Postman, our hero postman maneuvers from one fairy tale house to another, delivering correspondences (an apology note from Golidlocks and the 3 bears), junk mail (an advertisement for "Hobgoblin Supplies, ltd."), and even threats of legal action (the case of the Wolf v. Miss Riding Hood.) The jolly postman stops for tea at each home, delivering letters that we as readers could physically open and read.


Chicka Chicka Boom Boom


Learning the alphabet can be pretty boring, so imagine how relieved we were to find a book that turns dry and humorless letters into cute anthropomorphic characters. Our fearless letters climb the tree in orderly A-B-C succession, only to fall back down and sustain alphabetized injuries. Ouch.


Where the Wild Things Are


Monsters might seem like a scary, lurking under the bed prospect until we learn that in our imaginations we can just dance with them in a wild rumpus instead. Sounds like a decent solution to me. The back-story is possibly as entertaining as the tale itself: author Maurice Sendak had initially planned for the book to feature wild horses, but his publisher shunned Sendak's sub-par horse drawings. Sendak replaced the horses with caricatures of his Polish Jewish aunts and uncles: Aaron, Bernard, Emile, Moishe, and Tzippy. I imagine they were thrilled to find their likenesses titled "things."


Berenstain Bears


This friendly bear family has been teaching kids valuable life lessons for generations. I believe I read the Visit to the Dentist book at my own dentist's office at least twenty times, which helped assuage my fear of the infamous yankers while simultaneously teaching me about the untapped goldmine of cash at stake for my expendable baby teeth. Win-win.


Amelia Bedelia


What do you get when you combine a charming rhyming named housekeeper and a penchant for extreme literal interpretation of simple instructions? Pure children's book gold. Amelia Bedelia draws the drapes by trying her hand at sketching the curtains and prunes the hedges by sticking prunes in them. We learned the value of simple vocabulary and double meanings, plus I got some great ideas for how to make a mockery of my household chores,


Oh, The Places You'll Go!


Though it may have become a cliche gift for recent graduates, Dr. Seuss's final book is ultimately inspirational and sweet. The book details our protagonist's travel through uncharted territory, complete with setbacks and triumphs. So go ahead, give it to your graduating cousin or neighbor. He'll probably be able to start a collection with all of the copies he receives, but he may just learn a valuable lesson about endless possibilities.


The Rainbow Fish



This book seems pretty innocent with its message of sharing, so imagine my surprise in discovering it's taken some flack from critics for allegedly promoting a socialist agenda. It's a pretty preposterous accusation; it's enough to make you wish yourself back to a simpler time when you didn't know what things like "socialist agenda" even meant.


Stellaluna


Fruit bats are adorable and owls are evil? What kind of crazy mixed-up pre-Harry Potter owl love affair world is this? Stellaluna is separated from her mother and is raised with a nest full of baby birds, the mother of whom admonishes her for hanging upside down like, well, a bat. In case you were worried, she does eventually reunite with her mother, but the book has a bit of a melancholy feel through the whole "be true to yourself" message.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Guest Post: Celebrating 20 Years of "Must See TV"

Greetings, Children of the ’90s! My name is Frank Anthony Polito and I’m the author of the recently-released novel Lost in the ’90s.
As you might imagine, I’ve been thinking a lot about the ’90s lately. It’s hard to believe the decade that gave us Blossom, Beavis and Butt-head, and Blink-182 began over 20 years ago!

One of my favorite (and long forgotten) TV shows will actually turn 20 this coming August. How many of you Children of the ’90s remember the FOX drama The Heights featuring teen heart throb and singing sensation Jamie Walters -- who later appeared on Beverly Hills, 902010 as Ray Pruit?

The Heights focused on a fictional band called (what else?) “The Heights” and starred Walters as lead singer Alex O’Brien. The show also featured Charlotte Ross, then known for her Emmy nominated role as troubled teen 
Eve Donovan on Days of our Lives. Take a look at a scene from The Heights’ first episode:




While we’re on the topic of 20-year anniversaries... Here are a few other TV classics that also debuted in 1992. How many of these shows do you Children of the ’90s remember watching when you were growing up?

Barney & Friends - First airing on April 6, 1992, and featuring everybody’s favorite singing purple T-Rex. This show served as the babysitter to many a Child of the ’90s!


Goof Troop - Single father, Goofy, moves back to his hometown of Spoonerville with 11-year-old son, Max. The show premiered on April 20, 1992 on The Disney Channel and was adapted into a feature film A Goofy Movie in 1995.

Melrose Place - This steamy primetime soap centered around a group of 20-somethings living in the same West Hollywood apartment complex, and was recently revived (and soon-after canceled) by The CW. Episodes began airing on July 8, 1992.  

California Dreams - another show about a band, this multi-ethnic teen-oriented sitcom aired on Saturday mornings on NBC beginning on September 12, 1992. Check out the pilot episode below:


Hard to believe it’s been 20 years! Where has the time gone?

FRANK ANTHONY POLITO is an award-winning author and playwright. He received his BFA in Theatre from Wayne State University and his MFA in Dramatic Writing from Carnegie Mellon. He grew up in the Detroit suburb of Hazel Park and currently resides in Sunnyside, Queens, NY.

LOST IN THE ’90s tells the story of a teenage boy from 2012 who travels back in time to April 1994, on the eve of Kurt Cobain’s suicide. There, he meets his teenage parents and helps them fall in love so that he can born. (Think of it as a ’90s Back to the Future without Doc Brown or the DeLorean.) The book is chock-full of ’90s pop culture and musical references, including the #1 hit tune from November 1992, “How Do You Talk to an Angel” which plays an integral role in the plot.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Top 10 Vampire Movies from the 90s

Hey Children of the 90s! We are very excited that we have hit 3000 fans on Facebook. Thanks everyone for reading and for your support--y'all are all that and a bag of chips and the bomb dot com, all rolled into one. Remember--if you're interested in sharing your 90s content and reminisces, you can always pitch posts to us at childrenofthe90s@gmail.com. Today please enjoy this new guest post from author and vampire expert extraordinaire Vanessa Morgan!

The 90s were a pretty dry period for the vampire genre. With a few exceptions, major vampire movies were few and far between, and those that did make the multiplexes were fairly bloodless affairs. Although the vampire movies from the 90s did not have a real identity of their own, we saw new trends emerging: they marked a clear break from the commercial vampire movies from the 80s and paved the way for the stylish vampire action flicks that are common ground in the new millennium.

Buffy The Vampire Slayer (1992)


The now overly popular vampire series Buffy The Vampire Slayer started as this cheesy little teen flick with eighties influences. The basis of the film story is the same as the TV series: a teenage girl learns that she is her generation's destined battler of vampires. The cast contained many popular actors from that period, including Kirsty Swanson, Luke Perry, Donald Sutherland, Rutger Hauer, David Arquette and Hillary Swank.


Bram Stoker's Dracula (1992)



Francis Ford Coppola's adaptation of Bram Stoker's novel Dracula is still one of the best vampire movies ever made thanks to its breathtaking photography, intriguing storyline, beguiling music and excellent performances from Gary Oldman, Keanu Reeves, Anthony Hopkins, Winona Ryder, Tom Waits, Sadie Frost and Richard E. Grant.


Innocent Blood (1992)




Innocent Blood is a modern vampire tale that mixes crime with comedy, originality, intelligence and creepiness. Directed by John Landis.


Interview With The Vampire (1994)



Author Anne Rice not only made vampires popular in literature, but also in the movies thanks to the immensely popular adaptation of her novel Interview With The Vampire. It's one of the best vampire movies ever made and has not lost any of its beauty and power. With Brad Pitt, Tom Cruise, Kirsten Dunst and Neil Jordan.


The Addiction (1995)



Philosophical tale in black and white about a grad student turned vampire who tries to come to terms with her frequent craving for human blood. Director Abel Ferrari links the need for blood with the need for drugs, turning The Addiction into a well-made film that was so depressing that it marked the end for the serious and dark vampire stories. With Lily Taylor, Christopher Walken and Annabella Sciorra.


Dracula, Dead and Loving It (1995)


After several years of overly serious vampire movies, the world needed to laugh again with the undead and introduced several rather silly vampires movies such as Vampire In Brooklyn, Bordella Of Blood and Dracula, Dead And Loving It. The latter was a vampire spoof from the mind of Mel Brooks that made one big joke out of the genre.


Vampire In Brooklyn (1995)



Wes Craven's politically correct vampire comedy about a black vampire (Eddie Murphie) who's looking for a female mate, but it was a big box office hit nevertheless.


Bordello Of Blood (1996)



Bordello Of Blood was part of the series Tales From The Crypt and focuses on a funeral parlor that moonlights as a vampire bordello.


From Dusk Till Dawn (1997)



Two criminals and their hostages unknowingly seek temporary refuge in an establishment populated by vampires. The vampire twist halfway through the story was so unexpected and well-done, that From Dusk Till Dawn was on everyone's lips (although it did help that Quentin Tarantino directed the movie). From Dusk Till Dawn was also the movie that introduced George Clooney to an audience of cinema goers.


Blade (1998)


With Blade, released in 1998, a new era in vampire movie cinema began. Thanks to Blade, vampires now combined action with superhero powers and big-budget special effects. This story about a half-vampire, half-mortal that became the protector of the mortal race while slaying evil vampires, not only had several sequels, but also several big-budget clones such as Underworld and Daybreakers.


About Vanessa Morgan

Screenwriter and novelist Vanessa Morgan is known as the 'female version of Stephen King'. You can find out more about Vanessa Morgan and her work by going to her personal blog http://vanessa-morgan.blogspot.com. If you like cats, you might also like the web comic about her cat Avalon at http://avalon-lion.blogspot.com.

Books by Vanessa Morgan:
A Good Man (screenplay)
The Strangers Outside (short story)
Drowned Sorrow (novel)

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